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New universities regulator comes into force

The Office for Students legally comes into force to hold universities to account and promote students interests.

The Office for Students (OfS), the new regulator designed to champion the interests of students, promote choice and help to ensure that students are receiving a good deal for their investment in higher education, has legally come into force today (1 January).

With the legal establishment of the OfS, Education Secretary Justine Greening has also announced the final six appointments to the OfS’ 15-strong Board.

These appointments will not only reflect the diverse needs of the HE sector but will also make sure the interests of employers and students are represented by the new body, which will also hold universities to account over issues such as vice chancellor pay and free speech.

The OfS will replace HEFCE as the main regulator of higher education, and it will hold universities to account for the quality of teaching they provide.

It marks a major milestone in the implementation of the Higher Education and Research Act (2017), and the OfS will have an explicit legal duty to promote choice and consider the student, employer and taxpayer interests.



Government launches consultation on accelerated degrees

Students could be left over £25,000 better off by choosing an accelerated degree instead of a traditional three-year course, according to proposals set out today in a new government consultation.

Accelerated degrees offer the same qualifications and are quality-assured in the same way as a standard degree, but delivered over a shorter, usually two-year timespan. This means when most students are completing their third year of study, an accelerated degree student will be starting work and getting a salary.

The proposals, announced today (10 December), include a £5,500 (20 per cent) saving for students in total tuition costs compared to a standard three-year course. When added to the average salary of £19,000 in the first year after graduating, it means a potential £25,000 benefit overall.

For the taxpayer, it means significantly lower tuition loan outlay, higher rates of repayment and therefore a lower cost to the public purse of higher education. A higher proportion of students on accelerated degrees will also repay their loans in full.

Although the proposals allow institutions to charge up to 20 per cent more each year for accelerated degrees, the overall tuition fee cost of the degree to the student is 20 per cent less than the same degree over three years.

Providers already offering accelerated degrees report on more engaged students, positive employer feedback and the opportunity to attract a wider pool of applicants, including mature students who often want to retrain and enter the workplace more quickly.

New fee arrangements for these degrees are set to be in place by September 2019, subject to parliamentary approval.



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Landmark campaign to inspire next generation of engineers

The Year of Engineering will see government and industry offer young people across the UK a million direct experiences of engineering in a major push to tackle skills gap.

The government has announced that it will work with hundreds of industry partners to make 2018 the Year of Engineering and has pledged to work with them to offer a million direct and inspiring experiences of engineering to young people throughout the year.

Teaming up with a diverse range of partners – covering everything from technology, healthcare and food production to energy, culture and transport – the campaign aims to galvanise industry, MPs, parents and teachers in a national push to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Activities will include large-sale outreach programmes, such as a £1 million investment from Shell in the interactive Tomorrow’s Engineers Energy Quest programme for thousands of schoolchildren, a children’s book on engineering from publisher Usborne, and behind the scenes tours for families. The campaign will also highlight the role that individuals can play – from parents helping children with their maths homework or enrolling them in a coding club, to engineers from all backgrounds sharing their experience and advice in schools or via social media.



Increasing uptake of computer science

The growing digital economy in the UK continues to require more high-quality computer science graduates, a need that will not be met without more coming through schools. So what might schools do to encourage take-up? Niel McLean from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, shares some recommendations

This summer’s GCSE results provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made in introducing computing into the curriculum.

Firstly the good news: since the introduction of the new curriculum, the numbers taking GCSE Computer Science have increased each year with over 67 000 or roughly 12 per cent of candidates taking the exam this summer and the majority of secondary schools entering candidates.

However, there are causes for concern.

Firstly, the scale of the year on year increases since 2013 have not been repeated in 2017, rising by just 10 per cent this year, rather than doubling as in previous years. Secondly, the decrease in numbers taking GCSE ICT, which ends this year, have not been compensated for by the increase in Computer Science entries. Thirdly, the proportion of girls taking Computer Science is far too low.

This matters for two reasons. The growing digital economy in the UK continues to require more high-quality computer science graduates, a need that will not be met without more coming through schools.

More importantly, significant numbers, especially girls, are missing out on the great careers available to them and the opportunities to take an active part in shaping the digital world rather than being shaped by it. If we are to open up these opportunities to more young people, it’s essential to work together to increase the take up of Computer science at GCSE. So what might schools do?

More here


Education Secretary announces first new T levels

Biggest ever overhaul of technical education to deliver a skills revolution for Brexit Britain.

Education Secretary Justine Greening, has announced the first three T levels in Digital, Construction, and Education and Childcare, which will help deliver a generation of home-grown talent post-Brexit.

The first of the new qualifications, with content developed by leading industry professionals from companies including Rolls Royce, Fuijitsu and EDF, will be taught from 2020, with the full set of T levels introduced by 2022.

First announced in 2016 and backed by £500million every year in additional funding the qualifications are a key milestone in transforming technical education in the UK and extends the offer for young people to study a technical qualification at level 3 – equivalent to A levels.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: We are transforming technical education in this country, developing our home grown talent so that our young people have the world class skills and knowledge that employers need.

As we prepare to leave the EU, it is more important than ever that we create an outstanding further education and skills system, giving all young people the opportunity to fulfil their potential and deliver a better future for our country.

As part of making sure that the technical education ladder reaches every bit as high as the academic one, I want to see T levels that are as rigorous and respected as A levels.

Each route groups together related occupations which require common knowledge, skills and behaviours. These routes are further broken down into a number of specialisms, clustered together in a straightforward way so that young people can see a clear path to the occupation of their choice.

The content of T levels will be developed by newly appointed panels comprising industry professionals and employers – including EDF, Rolls Royce, Fujitsu, Lloyds, Morgan Sindall, Skanska and Morphy Richards – ensuring that they have real credibility. Panels have been launched across all 6 routes for delivery in 2020 and 2021. All T level programmes will also include a substantial, high quality work placement‎ so that students can apply their learning in a real workplace environment.

More info here


New education and skills measures announced

Education Secretary outlines plans to provide opportunity for all and ensure we have the skills needed for a modern, post-Brexit economy.

Education Secretary Justine Greening has (1 October) announced a series of measures to place education at the heart of the government’s ambition to provide opportunity for all and ensure we are building the skills needed to secure the nation’s prosperity.

The announcements will build on the government’s record of driving up standards in education – with 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, more rigorous qualifications and fairer funding for schools, backed by £1.3 billion of additional funding.

The measures announced include:

Help for students
To help more young people access the widest choice of high quality education or training, the government has outlined additional support for university students. The government has announced that it will raise the earning threshold for student loan repayments from £21,000 to £25,000 – which could mean up to an additional £360 a year for thousands of graduates early on in their career. The government is also freezing tuition fees for 2018/19 at their current rate.

Getting great teachers in the schools that need them most
The government wants to ensure every young person can reach their potential – and great teachers are at the heart of this. There are already a record number of teachers in our schools – 15,500 more than in 2010. To support more schools to attract the best staff, the Education Secretary has set out a series of measures, including:

  • Piloting a new student loan reimbursement programme for science and Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers in the early years of their career, targeted in the areas of the country that need them most. The pilot scheme will benefit around 800 MFL and 1,700 science teachers a year. A typical teacher in their fifth year of work would benefit by around £540 through reimbursement, and this would be more for teachers with additional responsibilities. This is in addition to the benefit that teachers will get from the newly-announced student loan repayment threshold rise.
  • New style bursaries in maths will also be piloted, with generous upfront payments of £20,000 and early retention payments of £5,000 in the third and fifth year of a teacher’s career. Increased amounts of £7,500 will also be available to encourage the best maths teachers to teach in more challenging schools.
  • £30 million investment in tailored support for schools that struggle the most with recruitment and retention, including investment in professional development training so that these schools can benefit from great teaching.
  • Supporting our best teacher trainer providers, including top Multi Academy Trusts, with Northern Powerhouse funding to expand their reach in to challenging areas in the north that do not currently have enough provision so more areas benefit from excellent teacher training, and help increase the supply of great teachers to the schools that need them the most

Tackling inequality and boosting opportunity across the country
Tackling the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is a crucial part of unlocking the potential of every child and, for many children, we know this gap is already in place before they even start primary school. In particular, research shows that five-year-old children who struggle with language are six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11 then children who have has good language skills at five, and ten times less likely to achieve the expected level in maths.

To help tackle this, the Education Secretary has set out:

  • A new national network of English hubs will be established across the country with a specific focus on improving early language and literacy – starting with £12m in the north.
  • £6 million further investment to expand Maths Hubs to more challenging areas, spreading excellence in maths teaching.
  • The latest round of the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund which will include a new focus on boosting literacy and numeracy skills in Reception year.
  • £5 million investment to trial evidence-based home learning environment (HLE) support programmes in the north of England, which focus on early language and literacy.
  • Plans to transform alternative provision so that no pupils outside of mainstream education are left behind – working with school leaders, parents and local authorities to ensure it is fit for purpose and ensures every child has access to good education, regardless of their background or their ability.

Building the next generation of skills our economy needs to thrive in a modern, post-Brexit economy
We want to deliver the skilled workforce our economy needs to stay competitive. Today’s announcement includes a number of steps to continue to diversify the training and quality of qualifications on offer and ensure we remain at the forefront of higher education:

A boost for degree-apprenticeships – with 27 new projects tasked with promoting and increasing this high-quality route into employment – which allows apprentices to earn while they learn, while gaining a full degree that has been developed in partnership with employers and universities. Projects will be spread across the country and are part of a £10 million fund launched in 2016 that has already supported more than 2,000 people to begin a degree apprenticeship.



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Gaining the IiYP Award will demonstrate to your customers and the wider community your company’s commitment to investing in and supporting young people into employment.

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Benefits of becoming an apprenticeship training provider

Government is very supportive of employers who want to deliver training to apprentices (to your own staff or to other employers’ staff) and understand that the introduction of the apprenticeship reforms will make many employers feel that this is the right approach for them. It enables you to directly design and deliver the content of the off the job training which your own apprentices will receive, giving you the ability to make sure it includes everything you think it should.

Employers who become providers can also help improve the quality of apprenticeships by widening the market and increasing the options for delivering high-quality training that will raise professional standards in your industry. Becoming a provider may mean investment in personnel (for example data administration, quality advisors, trainers, maths & English tutors etc.) and should only be considered if you are confident that you can provide quality training to the standards required of Approved English Apprenticeships.

For more information on the benefits of becoming an apprenticeship training provider please click here



Universities must embrace accountability

Minister outlines plans to boost accountability and transparency across high education sector.

In a speech at the Universities UK annual conference (7 September), Universities Minister Jo Johnson told Vice Chancellors and senior university staff that they must embrace accountability and take urgent steps to ensure they are offering a good deal for students and taxpayers.

Jo Johnson unveiled a series of new measures designed to curb spiralling Vice Chancellor pay. He said he will instruct the new Office for Students (OfS) to:

  • insist all universities justify any Vice Chancellor pay over £150,000 as part of their condition of registration. If an institution fails to do so, then the OfS could use its powers to address this, including imposing fines
  • issue new guidance on university senior staff pay, including on the role and independence of pay committees – to help universities understand the new rules
  • require providers to publish details of all senior staff earning over £100,000 per year, to ensure transparency across the sector.

Minister Johnson also renewed his call to Vice Chancellors and their boards to show pay restraint and urged them to develop and introduce their own ‘Remuneration Code’ for senior higher education staff.

He said that a requirement of the ‘code’ should include the publication of a pay ratio of top to median staff pay, and an explanation for any top pay increases that are greater than increases in average pay across the institution.

Setting an example for the sector, the new Chief Executive of the OfS, Nicola Dandridge, and Chair, Sir Michael Barber, have chosen voluntarily to cut their own annual salary by 18 and 10 per cent, respectively, which equates to a combined reduction of more than £40,000.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

The debate over student finance has, rightly, increased public scrutiny of how universities spend the money they receive from fees.

When students and taxpayers invest so heavily in our higher education system, excessive Vice Chancellor salaries send a powerful signal to the outside world.

Greater restraint is required and, by independently volunteering big pay cuts themselves, Sir Michael Barber and Nicola Dandridge have shown true leadership.

Exceptional pay can only be justified by exceptional performance, which is why I will ask the new Office for Students to take action to ensure value for money and transparency for students and the taxpayer.

The minister also vowed to tackle degree grade inflation following growing concerns about the number of student being awarded top degrees. Almost three-quarters of students now secure a first or upper second, compared to just 66 per cent in 2011/12 and under half in the mid-1990s.

Jo Johnson added:

Unchecked, grade inflation risks damaging the reputation of the entire UK Higher Education sector, creating a dangerous impression of slipping standards, and undermining the efforts of those who work hard for their qualifications and poorly serving the needs of employers.

I am disappointed that the sector have made so little progress in tackling this problem. As a first step I will ask the Office for Students to publish data annually and challenge where there is evidence that grades are being inflated, and I will introduce a new measure through the Teaching Excellence Framework to discourage and contain the issue.

I am today also calling on you to take swift action to define and agree sector recognised standards for all classifications of degrees – my challenge to the sector is to start that work now, and to reach sector wide agreement over the next 12 months’.

The OfS is a new public body, established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Once fully operational in April 2018 the OfS – which will replace the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – will regulate the higher education sector and place students’ interests at its heart.

The Department for Education will launch a public consultation in the autumn seeking views on the OfS regulatory framework, including the new measures outlined in the minister’s speech.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/universities-must-embrace-accountability